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People Are Strange        May 2022

How many times?

Life seemed pretty normal/safe/good for a while as the new millenium filled many with a sense of hope. As the milestone of 2012 passed without anything occurring that resembled a global apocalypse (as predicted by many mystical types misreading the Mayan prophecies), civilisation settled down to business as usual. And then along came a global pandemic lasting two years, swiftly followed by the reappearance of that old bogey-man ‘war’, courtesy of a forgotten and largely forgiven foe, sat alone at a very large table. Whatever happened to giving peace a chance?

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Peace shouldn’t be a fantasy. The idea that we can all get on with our lives without the threat of aggressive nations dropping bombs on our cities and murdering our people with impunity didn’t ought to be considered a naive and barmy notion. As a civilisation we’ve certainly been here before. We make much of our remembrance days, determined that the pointless insanity of war cannot return to sully the sacrifices made by our brave men and women. But as time marches inexorably on, it seems to be the case that the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history. 

The latest psychotic fruitcake has been on the radar for some time. ‘He who shall not be named’ always seemed something of a joke, with pretensions of machismo and a lackadaisical view of the inevitable corruption that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. No one ever really believed he was so blinded by nostalgia that he would actually want to reform it. Doesn’t he know you can’t have your cake and eat it? Anyway, enough about the villain of the piece. If the Russian military is making advances into its neighbour’s territory, those same neighbours are taking giant leaps and bounds on the international stage and fast becoming the most admired and respected nation on the planet. Standing defiantly against lies and misinformation, as well as one of the world’s largest armies, and making the bully in chief’s position as a world leader look utterly untenable.

Hands up if you’d heard of Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy, this time last year. He was the foreign leader that the disgraced former president of the USA (who also shall not be named) attempted to coerce into ‘digging up dirt’ on political rival, Joe Biden, withholding vital military aid in order to gain an advantage in the 2020 election, leading to impeachment and, ultimately, removal from office via the tried and tested path of a democratic election. So much can change in such a short time. A former actor and funnyman; who would have been surprised if he’d accepted America’s kind offer to fly him out of the danger zone to rule from exile? His response: “I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition,” got everybody’s attention. 

In the thick of it from day one, one can only admire him. But now that we’re all learning more about the Ukrainian people: their determination to stand up to their invaders; their resolution never to surrender and their willingness to risk everything to hang on to the country that they love - it’s not such a surprise after all. Ukraine is fighting for survival and, ultimately, peace. Whereas Russia, or I should say, the Russian military, on the orders of the sociopath in the kremlin, is fighting for... what? More land? A return to the bad old days of Stalin? Thousands of brave Russians have already taken to the streets, facing arrest and uncertain consequences to make it clear that they do not approve of their leader’s actions, and do not appreciate being lied to by their state-owned media.

The war in Ukraine is still ongoing, at time of writing, with Russian forces exacting a deadly toll on the country’s infrastructure, while the war of hearts and minds is a slam-dunk for Ukraine. As a western observer watching the war on rolling news, there’s something unreal about the whole thing. Just like with the pandemic, you have to keep pinching yourself to believe that this is actually happening, today, in 2022! How? 

Have a listen to the old Bob Dylan song mentioned in the title. He may have been singing about Vietnam, or Korea, or maybe even World War II, but he may as well have been singing about the disgraceful events unfolding in Ukraine today, right now. To paraphrase a smarter man than me: When the world is so full of beauty, why make ugliness? When we know that good is good, why make wickedness? There’s definitely some deep irony in the notion of fighting for peace. But the bottom line is: it’s the only thing worth fighting for.